Mario Tennis Aces Review – A Refreshing Curveball
Developer: Camelot Software Planning
Platform: Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: E
Release Date: June 22nd, 2018
Thank you, Nintendo for providing a review copy!
Mario Tennis Aces is the most recent in Nintendo’s line of Mario sports spinoff games. After the mediocre reception of “Mario Tennis Ultra Smash” on the Wii U, Camelot Software has attempted to rekindle what made the earlier games in the series enjoyable while also adding a modern touch and new mechanics. Do they achieve the harmonious balance between the two? Today we dive in and take a look for ourselves.
The story in Tennis Aces is… well its something. On one hand it has very creative and fun boss battles, and on the other hand it tries to tell you a story about a secret kingdom of tennis player and a demon possessed magical tennis racket. Yes, you heard that right. In a very Mario fashion, Wario and Waluigi are up to no good and come across a haunted tennis racket containing an ancient tennis spirit who wants to take over the world. As per tradition in Mario games, you’ll go from world to world, playing tennis matches and gathering the five infinity ge-….I mean “Tennis Stones” that grant the magic racket power so you can take him down. It’s silly, nonsensical, and honestly forgettable. It is not the worst story mode I’ve played in a sports game by any means, but Camelot would not be winning any writing awards for sure.
Tennis Aces features a very vibrant color palette and great technical performance as any Mario sports game should. Some of the effects on special attacks look particularly good despite there being no antialiasing in the game. One weird visual design choice I noticed is the framerate going down from locked 60 fps to a locked 30 fps anytime you stop moving on the Adventure mode story map. Not a negative to the game by any means, but it did take some getting used to. The courts have a wide variety of visual styles and greatly help with making tennis seem a lot more visually stunning than it actually is.
Most of the music found in Aces is your typical generic Mario fanfare. Most of the tracks are upbeat songs that occasionally coincide with the court you are playing on. None of the songs in the soundtrack were particularly bad but most of them just tend to blend in with the backdrop of the level instead of separating itself from it. The sound effects consist of your usual classic mushroom kingdom sound effects but there are a few sound effects such as the special shot that have a very good impact sound and make you really know you either did a good thing or messed up terribly.
-Sample of the Soundtrack-
Gameplay is this games biggest strength. It has the perfect skill ceiling for anyone to be able to pick up the game and have a good time while rewarding players who sink a fair number of time into the game. New mechanics introduced add a ton of depth to the gameplay formula. With the ability to eliminate someone from the game by breaking their tennis racket, matches truly become fights with players having to balance keeping their racket’s health from getting low and returning special attacks sent at them. Zone speed allows players to use some of their special meter to slow down time to allow for better saves and ball returns. These abilities create situations that are almost as fun to watch as they are to play. The only major issue the gameplay has is found in its Adventure mode. During the second half of the story, the courses and enemies become less about the A.I getting increasingly better and more about introducing unfair mechanics that rubber band enemies to beating you with seemingly nothing you can do. It’s honestly one of the craziest spikes in difficulty I’ve seen in a long time.
While Aces manages to easily beat out the amount of content found in “Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash”, it is not by much. A Story mode called “Adventure” has returned for the first time since the Gameboy iteration of the series. It’s very short, clocking at about 5-6 hours in total including the bonus levels. There is no post game single player content or modes besides local play which is a huge bummer for anyone playing on the go or without an internet connection. There is a mode called “Swing Mode” but all it amounts to being is a basic vs mode with sometimes poorly functioning motion controllers. The majority of your time after you beat Story mode will be spent in the online modes which are not too bad but also do not offer a ton of variety. You have your basic “Play with friends” mode and your average casual online matchmaking. One fun addition is the tournament mode, which allow you to rake up online ranking points by playing in Smash-esque bracketed tournaments. If you get eliminated you can hop right back in at any time with a new tournament, as they are always going on. A nice bonus from playing this is you will unlock new characters added in monthly updates early for playing these modes. Unfortunately, aside from tournament mode there no fun mini games or non-vanilla tennis modes to play with online friends. The character and court roster are decently sized this time around, with 15+ characters and 7 courts with 1 night variation to choose from. More characters will be added with free updates for the next 3 months which is a nice touch.
Mario Tennis Aces is certainly a step in the right direction for the series. A short story mode, weird enemy difficulty scaling and lack of single player options keep it from being worth the full price game it’s being sold for. With that being said; fantastic gameplay, a great roster, and decent online functionality make this definitely one of the best iterations in the series.